The number one use for commercial drones today is for inspection services. These machines fly over power lines, rail lines, under bridges and so much more to accomplish tasks such as preventative maintenance, documentation of work, and records for insurance claims.
Add an infrared camera and you can use these powerful drones to inspect pipelines, buildings and more for leaks — this makes for ideal search and rescue drones as well, but we’ll talk about that another day. For now, these are some of the best retail drones that make ideal inspection drones.
Why trust Drone Rush?
I’ve been a fan of flight since a young age; while I’ve had few opportunities at the helm of manned aircraft, the hours on my fleet of drones continue to grow. I enjoy putting cameras into the sky, silky smooth aerial imagery makes me happy. My goal is to help all pilots enjoy flight legally and safely.
DJI Matrice 300 series: Best inspection drone
The DJI Matrice 300 RTK is the culmination of DJI’s best inspection drone efforts. For those familiar with the previous M200 series platform, the Matrice 300 takes all of the best features from all of those drones, and crams them into this one airframe. That is to say, the Matrice 300 can do it all.
Should I buy the DJI Matrice 300?
For the most versatility in a commercial platform, it’s tough to beat the Matrice 300 series.
- Multiple payloads
- Multiple payload installation points
- RTK GPS precision
- Powerful with good flight time
- Accepts two operators
- Best flown with two operators
- Somewhat high price
DJI Matrice 200 series: Last gen modular system
The DJI Matrice 200 series includes the M200, M210 and M210 RTK. The M200 can handle two bottom mounted payloads, including infrared cameras, lights, cameras and more. The M210 adds a top mount for upward facing payloads. Finally, the M210 RTK is the M210, plus RTK GPS positioning systems. You can pick and choose the level of equipment necessary for your operations.
Should I buy the DJI Matrice 200?
If the M200 drone of your choice meets your needs, it’s still worth the price to put into your fleet. However, as a discontinued drone, you’ll be purchasing a used drone.
- Powerful commercial drones
- Multiple payloads and configurations
Yuneec H520: Hexacopter reliability
The Yuneec H520 hit the market as a lower-cost alternative to a DJI Matrice series drone, except that it offers six propellers for added stability and reliability. Multiple payloads and configurations have been available, allowing you to equip the H520 as needed for your operation. Entities like the Nevada Highway patrol have equipped the H520 for accident reconstruction photos, and we’ve heard good things about energy services using the H520 to inspect power lines and poles.
Should I buy the Yuneec H520?
If the age of an airframe bothers you, the H520 is pretty old now, but newer payloads keep the craft running smooth, and viable for your operations today.
- Hexacopter safety and reliability
- Powerful drone with good battery life
- Powerful controller with customizable code
- Older drone
- One payload at at time
DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise: Search & Rescue drone
The DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise is an updated consumer Mavic drone, made to be more secure, and to accept one of a number of accessories on top. Spotlights, speakers, beacons, and more quickly attach to make the most of your search and rescue or other similar flight tasks.
Should I buy the DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise?
The Mavic 2 Enterprise is a viable drone, but is still a member of the aging Mavic 2 series aircraft. Considering that the Mavic 2 drones remain some of our favorites, and some of the safest aircraft in the sky, we think there’s a good argument to purchase the Mavic 2 Enterprise today.
- Safe and reliable drone
- Fast and easy to operate
- Accessories made to help save lives
- Encrypted data
- Older drone
- An upgraded consumer drone
DJI Inspire 2: Professional camera drone
The DJI Inspire 2 is an older airframe, but still one of the very best camera drones in the sky today. Interchangeable cameras give it new life and new purpose for different operations, and the solid flight time and high speeds make it a viable drone for many operations. While this drone is not specifically made for inspection tasks, it can be very useful as a high-speed eye-in-the-sky. Certainly not as capable as a police helicopter, for example, but more than enough to keep eyes on a speeding car in a city.
Should I buy the DJI Inspire 2?
If your primary goal is to capture amazing photos and video from the sky, with your specific inspections tasks being limited to RGB camera capabilities, the Inspire 2 is certainly worth consideration.
- Powerful and fast
- Easy and safe to fly
- Very good camera drone
- Can be operated by two people
- ‘Just’ a camera drone
- Older drone
Parrot Anafi: Can look up
The Parrot Anafi began as a consumer drone with a unique and powerful ability, it can point the camera upwards. For most aerial camera tasks, looking up into the sky is a niche requirement, but for the task of inspecting the bottom of a bridge, for example, looking up is invaluable. Parrot figure this out, continuing to sell the consumer version, but also upgrading the Anafi into a few commercial versions as well.
Should I buy the Parrot Anafi?
As far as consumer drones are concerned, the Anafi is a dated and altogether average aircraft. It is, however, the least expensive viable camera drone that we know of that can point its camera upwards, if you need that ability and have a tight budget.
- Upward facing camera
- Inexpensive airframe
- Older drone
- Simple airframe
Frequently Asked Questions
How can I ensure legal and accurate inspection photos?
Most modern drones operate the same way as your phone or camera, they are computerized systems that capture relevant metadata with your photos. Inspecting a drone photo should reveal a date/time stamp, and it should have the GPS coordinates of the shot as well. Higher-end machines, with RTK functionality, can ensure GPS accuracy to within a centimeter, which is generally considered to be perfect from a legal perspective.
Do I need a license to do drone inspections?
Yes, you certainly do. The FAA in the United States requires that all flights for commercial operations must be handled under the supervision of a Part 107 certified pilot. A commercial operation is any flight for which the pilot will be compensated for their time and/or for the work performed by the drone. As long as you are being paid, either by the hour or for the photos and videos you’ve captured, you’ll need to be Part 107 certified.
Can I pay the neighbor kid to inspect the roof of my house?
When it comes to aircraft, even for a small toy drone, everything in the sky should be operated safely and responsibly, so the FAA makes it very clear, any flight for pay is a commercial operation. You can toss the neighbor kid a few dollars to mow the lawn, but they must operate under Part 107 rules to collect even just a hotdog from your BBQ as compensation for a flight. Also, they must be 16 years old to get their Part 107 drone license.
On the other hand, don’t forget that a drone must be registered before flight, but there’s nothing stopping you from borrowing the drone and flying over your own house. The registered owner of the drone is still responsible for the drone, so be safe, but you won’t be paying yourself for what will be, essentially, a safe and legal recreational flight, right? We are not aware of any current laws regarding renting drones.